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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 02 2018

7 Drinks to Boost Your Immune System

By Editorial Team
12 Comments

It’s that time of year again: cold and flu season. Your immune system is a powerful, multi-tiered network of organs and cells that protects you against foreign, deleterious microbes—and it will be working overtime to keep up with all the viruses and bacteria that circulate more readily during colder seasons.

A healthy overall lifestyle (including a good diet and ample sleep) provides the ultimate foundation for healthy immune function, but there are also natural, delicious “supplemental” ways to shore up your body’s defense system. Each of the following seven drinks contains potent nutrients your immune system needs to keep you healthy.

1. Green Tea

One of green tea’s most powerful ingredients is a plant compound known as Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. In addition to keeping cells healthy, EGCG has been shown to increase the number of T cells (a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in fighting infections) in the body, according to research in Immunology Letters. Though the study was done on mice, researchers found that EGCG “turned-on” T cell expression in the spleen and lymph nodes, and by extension, helped control immune response.

2. Vegetable and Fruit Juice

Sugar content aside, there are reasons to not write off the therapeutic potential of nutrient dense juices. Vitamin C is a powerful immune-strengthening micronutrient that can boost your T and B cell (a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies) counts. In fact, a vitamin C deficiency makes you more susceptible to infections, according to a paper in Nutrients. And since your body can’t make vitamin C on its own, you have to be sure to get it through your diet — namely, via fresh fruits and veggies.

Citrus fruits like orange and grapefruit are some of the best (and tastiest!) sources of this key vitamin, and juices can make it easier to get high doses in quick order. But citrus isn’t the only source by far. Research suggests pomegranate juice may have antimicrobial and antiviral properties, largely thanks to plant compounds like ellagic acid and tannins like punicalagin. Finally, guava juice, particularly if the whole fruit is used, offers more than twice the amount of vitamin C as a small orange, with fewer carbs to boot.

You can buy your juice at the store, but pressing fresh fruits into homemade juice will ensure you get the most bang for your nutritional buck. When it comes to vitamin C, freshness matters.

Just keep in mind that juices probably won’t help cure an existing cold. However, regular doses of vitamin C may shorten the length of your cold or lessen your symptoms.

3. Chai Tea

This fragrant, spicy black tea owes many of its health benefits to a hearty blend of spices, which often includes ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and fennel. Ginger, for example, has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, as well as the ability to reduce inflammation. Similarly, cinnamon contains potent polyphenols that offer protection from free radicals and help fight inflammation. Taken together, these and the other ingredients in chai tea offer a flavorful means for boosting immune health. Just stay away from the overly sweetened versions you often find at coffee shops — especially if you’re monitoring your blood sugar.

Finally, keep in mind that chai tea contains varying levels caffeine, so you may want to opt for another beverage if you’re sensitive.

4. Lemon-Flavored Water (Hot or Cold)

Much like its less-tart cousins, orange and grapefruit, lemon is a great source of vitamin C. In fact, just one of these citrus fruits provides roughly half your daily recommended dose. But since lemon can be pretty intense on its own, you may have better luck squeezing some into water to dilute it. Add a wedge or two to a mug of steaming hot water, or a tall glass of chilled water for a quick immunity boost.

5. Chamomile Tea

The flowers of this calming beverage are filled with plant compounds known as flavonoids, which may help reduce inflammation. Not to mention, inhaling the steam from chamomile may soothe symptoms of a common cold, though the research isn’t conclusive. Boost the power of your tea by adding a squeeze of fresh lemon.

6. Yogurt Smoothies

Yogurt as a source of probiotics offers a great means for creating thick, creamy smoothies that not only taste delicious, but also support the gut flora environment so essential to your immune function. Some studies reveal that probiotics can reduce inflammation, as well as reduce your likelihood of developing an upper respiratory infection. Plus, yogurt smoothies are a great way to add more immune-boosting fruits like strawberry and kiwi to your diet. Look for yogurt that’s been fortified with vitamin D (or make sure you’re getting enough through natural sun exposure or separate supplement), as this micronutrient is also a potent immune system booster.

7. Bone Broth

Finally, bone broth can influence immune function through the secondary means of supporting a healthy gut, which is a primary seat of immune function in the body. If your digestive health is compromised through untreated food sensitivities, leaky gut syndrome, or autoimmune conditions (often a confluence of these factors), bone broth may be a linchpin in rebooting your immune system.

Here are some additional immune-boosting tips:

  • Start Small: Swap out your regular beverages with any (or all) of the seven above. Each option contains key cold- and flu-fighting nutrients to keep your immune system healthy.
  • Get (or Stay) Active: Other lifestyle habits aside from nutrition also contribute to a healthy immune system. Regular physical activity, for example, promotes blood circulation, which helps your immune-supporting cells travel where needed. In fact, just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise may be enough to stimulate the immune system to produce an anti-inflammatory response, according to a study in Brain, Behavior and Immunity. [https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159116305645?via%3Dihub]
  • Get Outside: Regular doses of sunlight may also support a healthy immune system, as shown by a 2016 study in Scientific Reports. [https://www.nature.com/articles/srep39479] It turns out that the blue light found in natural sunlight gets your T cells moving faster so they can respond to infections more efficiently. Just one more reason to get outside!

Thanks for stopping by today, everyone. Thoughts, questions? Share them below, and have a great week.

References:

Wong CP, Nguyen LP, Noh SK, Bray TM, Bruno RS, Ho E. Induction of regulatory T cells by green tea polyphenol EGCG. Immunol Lett. 2011;139(1-2):7-13.

Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11).

Howell AB, D’souza DH. The pomegranate: effects on bacteria and viruses that influence human health. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:606212.

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002404.htm

Karuppiah P, Rajaram S. Antibacterial effect of Allium sativum cloves and Zingiber officinale rhizomes against multiple-drug resistant clinical pathogens. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2012;2(8):597-601.

Wang S, Zhang C, Yang G, Yang Y. Biological properties of 6-gingerol: a brief review. Nat Prod Commun. 2014;9(7):1027-30.Rao PV, Gan SH. Cinnamon: a multifaceted medicinal plant. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:642942.

Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Rep. 2010;3(6):895-901.

Hao Q, Lu Z, Dong BR, Huang CQ, Wu T. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(9):CD006895.

Aranow C. Vitamin D and the immune system. J Investig Med. 2011;59(6):881-6.

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12 thoughts on “7 Drinks to Boost Your Immune System”

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  1. Hey … how about mixing all seven together to create the ultimate immune system booster?! Yeah, that’s the ticket. Someone give it a try and let us know how that turns out. 🙂

    1. Good idea. If it was free…
      just had a free smoothie the other day. Banana and greens, tasted unsweetened. Someone abandoned it looking full, I guess they found it unpalatable or forgot. Score.

  2. While boiling 30 eggs (should last a while) I used ginger a few hours ago in an omelette, with minced garlic, basil, sage, and pink Himalayan sea salt (though that spice rack is ancient, been there for years). Someone in another room in the drop-in center I went in to use the kitchen said “Something smells good.” Grokkin’ right. Of course it did. I crawl out from my tarp, ride my rickety bike that’s on it’s way out and make delicious meals there from food bank and dumpster food with their seasonings and such added. They even have some anchovy sauce but that would have been too salty.
    How did that triathlete guy mentioned in a WLL (Weekend Link Love) recently eat 100 plates of sushi, even after fasting? I think I’d have to purge somehow. How much was on each plate? And that’s not fair to ban him since it was “all you can eat.” What we have here is a failure to communicate.
    Too much caffeine will damper your immune system by stimulating your central nervous system overmuch (like a “fight-or-flight” response) and depressing your parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest-and-digest” and heal part of the nervous system) at the same time so it’s not advisable to get hyper/tweaked on it when you’re sick; some stimulant should be fine if you’re not sensitive. I figure decaf would still be alright for coffees and teas.
    When doing yogurt [or dairy in general] smoothies I recommend trying without fruit. I had a ravaged digestive system and read that dairy is best digested alone, especially without fruit, and then tested that and found it was true for me. Dairy and melons? I’d recommend against that especially.
    Chamomile is great. I love chamomile and mint teas, “sleepy time” varieties. I’ve been carrying a box of it as well as other tea around to get free hot water for from restaurants and a free bank coffee machine. Put like four in a cup at night and let it steep until it’s bitter is an idea I suggest trying out. It could even increase your chance of lucid dreaming.
    I have to disagree with Mark about what he said in a post about dreams a while back: on the contrary to his statement, it is possible to return to the same dream if you wake up briefly – it’s happened to me a bunch of times, on purpose even, sometimes when lucid dreaming and sometimes during regular dreams, sometimes falling asleep back to the same dream if you can call it the same – at least a very similar dream or the same dream-scape that often continues the narrative.
    I’ve had recurring dream-scapes too, years apart and I’m dreaming about very similar stuff or in very similar, shall we say blueprints. That’s not easy for me though, falling back asleep to return to a dream or staying in a lucid one, because then I guess the prefontal cortex is firing back up and I’m not yogi enough to control my brainwaves and stay in REM.

    1. Ghost, I haven’t changed my mind on that. These days especially I limit fructose, but some folks do ask about nutrient-dense drink options. For those who want a vegetable and fruit based option, these might offer some ideas. I’d suggest whole food over juice for the fiber and keeping these in moderation with the emphasis on vegetables and low glycemic fruit options like berries and guava.

  3. Back in the day (like at least a decade ago) I used to drink hot lemonade at first, then switched to hot lemon water. I got away from that but, oddly enough, I purchased a lemon just a few days ago to get back to hot lemon water in the afternoons.

  4. I’ve suddenly had an intolerance to caffeine, so I switched to a beverage that is partial golden milk with added super mushroom powder (Reishi, Maitake, Cordyceps, Shiitake, Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail and Chaga), collagen & a little cacao. I feel really good, and great for my intestinal issues.

  5. Where’s ginger ? Come on, this article could have been waaaay better!

  6. Throw in some mushrooms too?
    It was likely this site that I learned they enhance immunity.